Do you ever feel like all of your muscles are so tense that if one more thing gets added onto your plate you will snap? Or feel so much frustration and anxiety that you wonder if people will start seeing smoke come out of your ears? Let’s face it…we live in a very fast-paced, go-go-go world. It feels sometimes like we’re stuck on a rollercoaster ride that we can’t get off of. When we have times of intense stress, it is so important to find ways to decompress. Walking is a great stress reliever that doesn’t take any special equipment and can be done anywhere.
Benefits of Walking
- Exercise, like walking, reduces the body’s stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline and boosts feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins are our body’s natural pain killers and mood lifters. Therefore, a boost in endorphins boosts our energy and mood and can even boost confidence. This in turn can alleviate mild depression and/or anxiety.
- Walking can clear your head and put your brain into a calmer, more relaxed state. Have a difficult problem you need to solve or challenge you are facing? Taking a 15-minute break to get outside and walk can do wonders to clear your head and help you think more clearly. If you have a deadline at work and get stuck on something, try going for a walk with a co-worker on a break and bouncing ideas off of each other. Or if it’s a problem at home, grab a friend and a coffee and discuss it with them as you take a stroll in your neighborhood or park.
- Spending time in nature is a great stress reliever. There is something about movement outdoors that does wonders for body & soul. Turn your phone off and be fully in the moment, aware of your surroundings and feel the sunshine or breeze on your face. Doing this can increase your energy and even improve your memory.
- Increases social engagement if you walk with a buddy. We all know how difficult it can be to stay connected with friends, especially for those with kids or busy careers, or both. Try to connect once a week with a friend and go for a walk instead of sitting in a coffee shop or seeing a movie. There is something about walking and being outdoors with a friend that helps us build social connections and maybe even helps us open up more than we would in another setting.
- Regular walking reduces fatigue. If you’re feeling very tired, try going for short, slow walks every day and gradually increasing the time. Add another 5 minutes each day until you’re up to 20-30 minutes a day. The combination of fresh air and movement boosts mood and energy.
- Deepen your spirituality through walking. Spending time walking solo outdoors is a great time to think deep, spiritual thoughts and reflect. It is also a great way to spend time in prayer, as your head will be clearer and you’ll be away from distractions if you’re walking in a peaceful place. I find that I feel closer to God when I’m in nature. Give thanks for the beauty you see around you and take time to really appreciate all the wonderful things you see.
Walking Solo or With Others
There are many benefits of walking solo, as you can spend time being one with nature, sorting your thoughts and go at your own pace. However, there are many benefits to walking with others as well.
Walking with a friend or group of friends is a great way to bond and strengthen social ties. If you have a lot on your mind, being with friends who make you laugh is a great stress reliever and takes your mind off of your problems for a while. Or, if you need to vent, walking with a friend who is a great listener can help take the weight off your shoulders and feel relief on top of getting exercise.
Walk with your kids or grandkids. Similar to walking with a friend, walking with little ones can be very rewarding. Kids love nature and exploring outdoors. Being outside brings out another side of a child that you wouldn’t see if they were inside watching television or playing video games. Enjoy nature through the eyes of a child. It’s like seeing everything for the first time again. The world is filled with so much wonder and beauty. Sometimes it takes spending time outside with a child to truly appreciate it.
Some people find strenuous exercise difficult, especially those who may have health issues that prevent them from intense cardio workouts. However, walking is just as beneficial as some other forms of exercise if you’re committed to it. Whether you are a brisk walker or just starting out and taking it slow and steady, walking has so many benefits. Try to go for 20-30 minute walks 3-5 times a week. If you commit to this, it won’t be long until you start to feel the improvements in your energy levels and mood. So pull out those walking shoes and get outside today!